How to Read a Cosmetic Label

Before we talk about the label, let’s clarify the definition of Cosmetics.

According to FDA, a cosmetic is a product, except soap, intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance. The raw materials used as ingredients of cosmetic products are by law also cosmetics.

FDA defines the term “soap” as a product in which the non-volatile portion consists principally of an alkali salt of fatty acids, i.e., the traditional composition of soap; the product is labeled as soap; and the label statements refer only to cleansing. If cosmetic claims, e.g., moisturizing, deodorizing, skin softening etc., are made on a label, the product is a cosmetic. Synthetic detergent bars are also considered cosmetics, although they may be labeled as “soap.”

That is, Cosmetics include Makeup, Skincare, Hair and Body care products including most of Soaps (as well as the raw materials used for those products by law).


What’s on the Cosmetic Label?

Cosmetics_label_face_ KindWellbeing_720b

1. Product Identity / Name

2. Net Quantity of Contents – Weight (g or OZ) or volume (ml or FL OZ) at the time of packaging

+ the Cosmetics_e-symbol sign, a guarantee of the correct quantity of the product as printed on the package, according to EU standards (or more specifically it means that the requirements of the directive 76/211/EEC are met).

3. Material facts / Function of the Cosmetic Product

4. Warning and Caution statements

5. List of Ingredients – Ingredients are listed using the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) denomination in descending order of weight except the following cases:

  • Active drug ingredients are declared before declaration of the cosmetic ingredients.
  • Ingredients with a concentration of less than 1% may be listed in any order after those with a concentration of more than 1%.
  • Colorants may be listed in any order after the other cosmetic ingredients (using Color Index – CI nomenclature)

6. Expiration Date

(1) Date of minimum durability

  • [Date of min. durability sign + expiration date] or [best use before date]
  • Not mandatory for products with a min durability of more than 30 months


(2) Period of time after opening (PAO)

  • [ PAO symbol + number of months or years]
  • for products with expiration date of more than 30 months

7. Product’s Country of Origin – “Made in…”

8. Name and Address of the Responsible Person/Business (and Distributor statement – If the name and address are not those of the manufacturer, the label must say “Manufactured for…” or “Distributed by …”)

9. Batch Code or Lot Number (and Reference Number)


+ Cosmetics_open-book-symbol Open Book Symbol is used if any of the information is enclosed or attached in a leaflet, tag, etc. beside the main label.


+ Recycling symbols

Cosmatics_green-dot-symbol-green The Green Dot – a European trademark that producers and suppliers include on their packaging advising consumers that they have contributed financially to the recycling of the products packaging. It does not mean that the packaging is recyclable.

mobius_logo Mobius loop – a recycling symbol, indicating that the products packaging can be recycled.

petSymbolA Plastic Recycling symbol, Number 1 Plastics – Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, or sometimes noted as PETE)


+ Other symbols such as USDA Orgamic symbol USDA Organic symbol, Leaping Bunny Leaping Bunny (no animal testing), etc.


Note that not all cosmetic labels display all the information above.


Let’s check out some more cosmetic label examples.


Expiration date and Lot number are located at the bottom of the box (not shown in the picture).



Now you know how to read cosmetic labels! 🙂



1. FDA Cosmetic Labeling Guide

2. Health Canada’s Guide for Labelling of Cosmetics.

3. Cosmetics Europe – The Personal Care Association’s Guide for Cosmetic Labelling